Taste and Time

5 Feb

One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything. — Oscar Wilde

Recently I have been thinking about age.

Aging, age differences…all of it.

It’s been quite dismaying to me to become the age I am. I certainly don’t think of myself in terms of a number. My mind is clearer now than it’s ever been. Awake is the only way to describe the contrast between my cognitive and behavioral functions now as opposed to fifteen years ago. I feel wise and open, not afraid to be my most authentic self with others. Many of my friends see me as “balls to the wall” brave,with a huge side of quirk. I’ve learned how to be kind and yet completely honest at the same time. I’ve lost the urge to become overly concerned with life happenings, letting life go much more easily than in the past. Is that a sign of maturation? Perhaps. I’ve lived long enough to know both that I’ll live through difficulties and yet in less years than imagined, I will die. That places me in the center of a road and quite conscious of every step, every gift.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how age affects my ability to be socially romantic. There aren’t many men my age who are also solo and of the same mind intellectually, artistically, and spiritually. This limits socializing quite a bit. And there’s something I’ve noticed more now than ever and that is the preference of many men of my peer group for much younger women, much younger than me anyway. Not that I wouldn’t be romantically inclined to men a many years my junior, so I don’t blame them. Almost all of the men in my life have been younger, but that has taught me a lot about the road and where one walks upon it. How comforting it can be to have a companion who understands and can negotiate the soul. The power of negotiation that age preference gives men, though, has frustrated me, a lot. I’ll live longer statistically; it makes sense to me that my partner should be the same age or younger. Not the other way around. However, my choice in the matter is severely limited through enormous cultural and social conditioning. I’m still trying to wrap my understanding around that.

Saturday afternoon found me up the road to Charlottesville with Clar in tow. My visit to Tastings was planned for several weeks after checking out their website. Along with retail wine sales, they feature a restaurant, wine club and newsletter. Prompted by traveling, knowing more about wine has become a personal goal. I know just enough to make a fool of myself in front of someone truly experienced and that needs amending. The day was bitterly cold, and sprinkled with snow showers and truth be told, I was lonely. A caught feeling, like feeling beautiful and at my personal best and yet somehow alone was wearing on my mind. I’ll admit in these moments, the “what’s wrong with me” tends to pop up. In my case, the age factor was playing an eight track and I unfortunately began singing along.

Exiting a sudden heavy snow shower, I entered the “old world” ambiance of Tastings. Walls were lined from floor to ceiling with bottle upon bottle. Wooden boxes, stacked by racks, presented green glass flagons with colorful labels and elegant script. When Bill Curtis, the owner, asked how he could help me, I suddenly realized my complete status as a novitiate oenophile. My clever answer?

“I don’t know…I suppose I’d like to know more about French wine?”

That’s like a bride-to-be telling a florist, “I’d like the white bridal bouquet.”

Bill’s expertise is impeccable, and his fluency with a large variety of wines is intriguing to witness. He helps a wide clientele as well as serving gourmet lunch and dinner in the restaurant. As we began to chat more though, I suddenly realized the power that comes with knowledge born of experience, the ability to guide and to share. And I thought, that must be the thing for men, an innate sense of fixing things, of being the guide, the leader. I understand, but it doesn’t make the sense of having missed the love boat go away. While we discussed a variety of wines, I began to notice the price range was a bit higher than I have been accustomed to unless at a vineyard, but then quite quickly I realized the reason. Bill has great wine. He tastes everything, knows it all well and is able to recommend according to a customer’s preferences and plans.

Carafes and containers, flasks and phials, the green glass glows. That’s something I think I love most about wine. Just the way each is different, beautiful in it’s own way and the esoteric value of the label’s paper and ornamentation. Cork and ritual, it’s a fancy that doesn’t take much future commitment unless one cellars. I sat at the bar as the snow intensified, and had a flight of French reds. Bill chose for me at my request and he began to discuss really fine wines, those that were $350 to $400 a bottle. He told me a story about judging a wine that was over one hundred years old and how they kept it in a large barrel and then bottled it on order. I began to think in metaphor once again.

“Bill, how do you know that a wine will age well… that it will be better as time passes?”

He smiled, “Most likely…it’s a red.” He winked.

I smiled, and actually blushed a little.

He continued, “Well, one easy way, is that at first, it doesn’t open up immediately. It improves with being open.

Then, when you taste it, your mouth neutralizes the tannins quickly and there won’t be many in its young stage. It will be fruity. With time it will develop and deepen in complexity.

Secondly, it shouldn’t have any bitterness and then lastly, it’s got to be unfiltered.”

At that point, I almost laughed out loud.

“The organic particles in the wine have to be there for the wine to stay alive, to change and grow.”

That’s about as simple an explanation as he could give me. It was all I needed to understand not only about wine, but about me.

It’s something I think applies to everyone, not just women. Wines that last, that are precious are also rare. They demand a high price because they can. They have all the right elements from the beginning; they are kept well and appreciated for their complexity and the surprises they can bring to a discerning palate. Their rarity makes them special and therefore coveted, but only among those who know what makes a wine really good. One can drink young wine all day, every day and be quite happy. But the special vintages are old and they come around only once in a while. Once experienced, the differences are obvious. They outlive others through good planning, good keeping, and luck. One could say that to pay $400 for a bottle of Bordeaux is insane.

But if he has the knowledge to know its rarity and can understand and anticipate the promise of what it will deliver, the investment is worth it.

That’s a lesson for me, too.

One Response to “Taste and Time”

  1. banished2theburg February 14, 2013 at 10:32 PM #

    “The power of negotiation that age preference gives men…”
    Struth.
    Both insightful and incisive, this is really good writing.
    Throughout.

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